This article was a collaborative effort created by Dr. Hammer’s COM 200 class:

Written by: Tori Budd, Caroline McHugh, Rachel Butler, Hannah Madeya, Juliet Gentilucci, and Pat Sheppard

Edited by: Adam Fine, Liz Held, Jessica Smith, and Maddie Fife

Media Creation by: Emily Cook, Caela Abadie, Emily Dunn, Mary McGuinness, Eva Webb, Amanda Markert, Sydney Rose, Caroline Minnucci, and Haley Rabel

Online dating apps have set a new standard that we may never be able to come back from: for better or for worse. Over the years, the evolution of media has created a generational shift in how technology impacts the dating scene and relationships. New media is synthetically changing how we view the world, especially within the lives of Generation Z.  For American couples, technology and social media are becoming a major factor, affecting how they function within their relationships. Couples often use social media and technology to share special moments, but also don’t always see eye-to-eye on when to use it and when to not. Some couples find that technology and digital tools can help to facilitate communication.  Others find that it hinders communication and have had hurtful experiences caused by technology use.

Dating App Interview
Eharmony website on a laptop
Source: Eharmony.com

The ever-changing technological advancements are a test to the human mind and its capabilities to adapt to new situations.  The growing trend of dating apps is creating new outlets into the dating world.  More and more Americans are turning to dating apps, such as Tinder and Bumble, to find their next relationship.  These apps have become an extension of ourselves as we are putting more of our private lives out into the digital world.  The process of dating and relationships, which were once private, are now publicly displayed through social media.  According to Pew’s study, about 39% of adults living with their partner and 48% of those in committed relationships post about their relationship on social media.  Conversely, adults who are married and single are the least likely to post about their love lives on social media, with 24% and 26%.  

22-year-old’s online dating profile
Source: Caela Abadie

Dating apps have been designed to appeal to a specific group of people and are aimed towards “hook-up culture” and generation-z. In the reading “Politics of the Interface” the authors highlight how the media can tell a lot about a culture because of their interactions. Apps like “Tinder” and “Bumble” take advantage of these trends and, as a result, are purposely aimed more towards hook-up culture. When people keep going back to the app to meet new people, the company itself makes more money. If people were going to use the app for the intended purpose of finding love, the companies would be less likely to make money because people would benefit from using the app once, find someone, and go live happily ever after. The marketing aspect of the app and the audience it is aimed towards changes the atmosphere of relationships and their expectations. This has caused generation-z to change their idea of relationships and further push away from the original concept of dating. Even though the app tends to be used in this sense, there are still people who join hoping to find love. In these instances, users have higher expectations. People expect the algorithm of the app to be in their favor and help the user narrow down people they will be interested in. This has also impacted the dating environment. When people see an individual who fits their criteria, they often swipe right without really getting to know the individual beforehand. Overall, between hook-up culture and the way these apps are designed, the intentions of using the app and what people want to get out of it vary, creating a toxic environment. 

Student in class on phone
Source: Emily Dunn

Another impact of technology and dating apps on relationships is the art of “catfishing”. Catfishing is a glitch within the dating app where people can hide behind a screen and pretend to be someone else. According to Rosa Menkman in The Glitch Studies Manifesto, she explains that a glitch is an “…experience of an interruption that shifts an object away from its ordinary form and discourse.” On Tinder and various other dating apps, the expected experience for users is beginning a relationship with a real person who matches the photos they showcase on the app. Authenticity has become a big issue with these apps, and according to Atal Bansal, “companies are scrambling to create a solution that utilizes facial mapping for users to prove their identities.” However until this problem is solved, there will continue to be a glitch in the system. Users who catfish may also be hiding a glitch, or insecurity they have within themselves, which is why they feel the need to acquire this new identity. This will have negative impacts on their relationships as well, because the foundation of a catfishing relationship is a series of lies.

Student on laptop communicating with others
Source: Sydney Rose

Dating virtually has become a completely different landscape than traditional in-person dating. From the first meeting to showing compassion and care, the stages have taken very different forms. This is due to the fact that online dating facilitates connection through a medium that is not very personal. Using a screen puts a physical divide between the two people who are communicating, while with in-person dating you are face-to-face, can pick up on all types of signs, and communicate without even saying a word. It is when we are in person that our connections are strongest and there is a better foundation for something bigger to be built on. Online it is very easy for people to be disingenuous. This creates another barrier of a lack of trust and the idea that everything the other person says should be taken with at least a grain of salt.

Couple using technology to capture the moment
Source: Caroline Minnucci

This a theme that McLuhan focused on in a society with continual advancements of technology. McLuhan believed that the medium of which something is communicated is actually more powerful than what is being said. Additionally, McLuhan mentions that every creation is an extension of ourselves while simultaneously amputating the very thing it is extending. Not only do we extend our voices to communicate in dating, but we also extend our feelings and means of connection. But when we use an app to date and communicate through a phone we are not getting the full experience. 

All in all, dating apps have led to an incredible cultural shift. Depending on the specific situations, technology can have positive or negative effects on relationships. If couples use dating apps to get to know one another, and show their true selves, we can help create an authentic dating culture.